It is extremely disappointing that Popular Resistance deigned to publish an op-ed by Paul Craig Roberts, US and EU Are Paying Ukrainian Rioters and Protesters, in which he characterizes protesters as either paid shills or “gullible dupes.”
Only four days earlier, Popular Resistance published an insightful commentary from a group of Ukrainian academics decrying the shortsightedness of analysis that paints the uprising in monolithic and totalizing terms. In The Role of Extreme Right in Ukraine Protests, these academics point out that “by fundamentally discrediting one of the most impressive mass actions of civil disobedience in the history of Europe, such reports help to provide a pretext for Moscow’s political involvement, or, perhaps, even for a Russian military intervention into Ukraine.” The accusation from Roberts that the protesters are merely dupes is a somewhat different kind of totalizing claim, but nonetheless has the exact same result.
This is not an attempt on my part to excuse American hegemony, nor to deny the undeniable: the US has vested interests in the outcome of the standoff in Ukraine and certainly favors some political parties and groups over others. In such a situation, the US is obviously shaping a particular narrative and providing material support to particular groups, as is the EU, as is Russia. But the kind of vast conspiracy suggested by Roberts is patently nonsensical, myopic American-centrism, and moreover is insulting to the justifiably angry people of Ukraine, as if they couldn’t pull off a protest if it wasn’t for the CIA. He is essentially suggesting that the people in the country are merely listless, unorganized puppets, and, thus, their legitimate anger might be better served if they just went home, leaving their fate to those in the know (such as Roberts himself).
This is a stereotypically reactionary impulse: representing the multitude as a blind seething mass of anger that has been duped. This is not reflective of the complexity and nuance of cultures of resistance readers have come to expect from Popular Resistance. Are there serious concerns that this uprising, as with many uprisings before, may be turned to authoritarian ends, to the whims of empire, co-opted, subverted, bent to the will of the hegemon? Yes, of course. But is this a reason to grind into the dirt a significant expression of popular resistance? No, and Popular Resistance (Popular Reaction?) should know better.
Thanks for reading http://www.PopularResistance.org.
As I said in the introduction (reprinted below), we are reporting a variety of views. Why? Because there are a variety of legitimate views on the complex situation in Ukraine. In the introduction I also pointed out that Ukrainians have legitimate grievances against the government and that it is an impressive, long-term protest. So, Paul Craig Roberts views were put in context. Are you saying we should only present views that do not implicate the US — even though US officials have been caught on tape discussing how to manipulate who is in the next government? It would be much better for Ukraine if the US, EU and Russia allowed Ukrainians to set their own course, unfortunately that is not what is happening. The US in particular is very sophisticated in manipulating protests (even creating them) to get the result it wants. The US government has been doing so around the world since the 1950s and is often successful in putting in place governments it wants. My hope is that Ukranians will see that the US is trying to manipulate them and not allow it.
Here’s the introduction:
We have been covering the Ukrainian protests from a variety of perspectives. The revolt in Ukraine is an amazing, long-lasting uprising. It was spurred by the president refusing to sign an agreement allying Ukraine with Europe and by an economy that is struggling. There is also long-term opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych who some describe as running a corrupt, gangster government. And, many in the country also want to break from their alliance with Russia. There has been open support of the Ukraine uprising by US officials including Senator John McCain as well as diplomats, who have been caught on tape discussing the government that should replace Viktor Yanukovych. Professor Michael Hudson, a research professor of economics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, has written a book on the modern US empire, Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy Of American Empire,” and in a recent interview said: “If you’ve read the newspapers recently the US has just gone in to the Ukraine and has assassination squads murdering the Ukrainian leaders that do not want to push Ukraine along the neoliberal pro-European, as opposed to Russian practices.” The article below by Paul Craig Roberts describes how the EU and US are paying protesters in the Ukraine. KZ
Kevin — I expect from your publication views that do not denigrate protesters and resistance movements. Of course I read the caveat at the beginning of the article, but do not think this exonerates Popular Resistance from any responsibility for the content. I mean, do you intend to publish ALL the views? Why this one?
And no, I am certainly not saying that you should present only those views that do not implicate the US. That’s not the point, and I tried to state that when I said I am no fan of American hegemony. The point is there’s a way to do that without suggesting the resistance movement is being entirely controlled by them and that the protesters are dupes. I find that line of argumentation to be antithetical to the spirit of your publication, and certainly it comes into conflict with the insightful article from the group of academics from Feb. 14th. Again, I expect better from a publication riding the banner of the resistance.
We publish this one because the role of the United States in taking advantage of or coopting people’s movements is not discussed in the US media, so we need to highlight it.
We do not support every people’s protest. For example, the protests in Thailand are anti-democracy, pro-monarchy, pro-religious-based government and pro-military. That needs to explained and understood. The current government in Thailand also needs to be criticized for neoliberal policies and corruption. Similarly, the current protests in Venezuela are supported by the US and oligarchs — should we support them?
Ukraine is complicated, so we put up a variety of views, but the role of the US is very important and is hidden from most Americans.
I wish you page allowed me to edit! :-)
We did not denigrate the movement or say it was controlled by the US, but if the US/EU are paying protesters that needs to be known. It seems to me (from what we know right now) that the US is trying to manipulate it. They seemed to have started based on legitimate grievances with the current government. I’m not sure the alliance with the EU is very smart — especially the way it requires a military alliance as well. It seems like the EU/US are using the discontent in Ukraine for their own efforts to weaken Russia.
Kevin — I have found the best way to think about resistance movements is to try and bracket out the geopolitical positioning so often found in the mainstream press and to simply support the legitimate anger of people against their state. People get angry about corruption, state-sponsored violence (such as police brutality), poverty and the price of bread, unemployment, etc. These are the sorts of grievances of everyday people. Once the narratives of the established political game of left-right come into play, that notion of solidarity is very often lost. Certainly, I support the protesters in Venezuela, and I support the protesters in Thailand. I do not buy the sort of narratives that say we should not support student protesters in Venezuela simply because the US happens to support a particular right wing political party vying for control of the country against the leftist government. Of course, populist, grassroots movements open the door for all kinds of co-optation, and I understand the risks inherent in that. But the theory of resistance I find myself drawn to is anti-statist, essentially anarchist, and so I do not care so much for the grand narratives of mainstream politics. All power to the people, for me, means just that, and so when people rise up I support them. I appreciate that you want to present the complicated nature of the protest movement in Ukraine, and in other places, but there is a way to do that while at the same time remaining in solidarity with the multitude. I respect your publication, and I respect your integrity as a journalist and editor… I am just pushing you to have another thought about this. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I do appreciate it.
If you ignore the role of countries like the United States that intervene for corporate interests and Empire domination you are making a terrible analysis. Take Iran in 1953. They had a democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. He ran for office based on nationalizing oil so Iran could keep a fairer share of oil profits. This was unacceptable to the US and UK so they created a fake revolt of monarchists who wanted a return to the monarchy. They did the types of things you see today — protesters in the streets, fake populism. (Under your analysis you would support them.) They succeeded and democracy ended in Iran. The Shah was put in power and brutally led the country until 1979 when there was a revolution to overthrow him. He suppressed Muslims and was a key US ally in the region militarily and economically.
This may have been the greatest damaging blunder the US made among many similar coups as it became the foundation for anti-Americanism and extremist Muslim hatred for Americans (for good reason! (The CIA thought it was a great success and became a model used over and over around the world as a way to put pro-US governments in power and remove democratically elected progressive governments.)The Shah was absolutely brutal and ripped off the wealth of the country for himself. Here’s an article about the coup, includes a photo of the protests in the street that you say is proof of people power, http://www.popularresistance.org/the-moment-the-u-s-ended-irans-brief-experiment-in-democracy.
There are the same signs that this is what is occurring in Venezuela. If the US and oligarchs succeed in removing Maduro and his government, they will have overthrown democracy. Maduro and his party have won a dozen or more elections, judged among the cleanest and best run in the world. And, the result will be the beginning of the end of Latin America’s break from US domination and neoliberal economics. People who had been living in poverty without healthcare and education will return to serfdom. And, you call this people power! It is phony but with your analysis you would not see that because there were people protesting. This really is an approach that mis-states reality rather than reflects it.
I urge you to rethink your analysis. These revolts are often inconsistent with people power and done by powerful interests that lose elections to people who really have people power. Often it is done by powerful interests from outside the country, working with people in the country who have been removed by people power.
Kevin — it is enough for me to simply restate that I support the protesters, not the elites.
Popular uprisings do not form in a vacuum. They happen because people are legitimately angry about the conditions of their lives. The political narrative comes after, not before. It’s not like the US was able to go into a perfectly placid Iran in 1953 and stir up a docile population, just as the shortly-lived coup that cast Chavez from office in 2002 did not happen simply because the US went in and stirred up trouble. The reason that both of these coups were able to take hold was because there was/is widespread social unrest that preceded them. The understanding of history and politics that you share above is, quite frankly, elitist, bourgeois, and lacks an awareness of social conditions, since you start the analysis from the position of the powerful. Take the uprising in Egypt during the Arab Spring… It is easy enough to say that this was about politics first, about the Muslim Brotherhood and a shift in power from one set of elites to another. But the Arab Spring happened, in the first instance, because of the cost of bread. ( An article you might like on this aspect of the Arab Spring and continuing global unrest: http://necsi.edu/research/social/food_crises.pdf )The politics and elite narratives always comes after. The coups come after. What comes first is the legitimate anger of everyday people.
I urge you to rethink your analysis. I urge you to rethink the American-centric view from the top of the pyramid that forgets that everyday people don’t care about geopolitics when the pressing issues are feeding their families. This is speaking from a position of extreme privilege. I’m trying to work with an awareness of that in what I’m saying. You’re trying to fit things into neat little boxes wrapped in tidy little bows.